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6:38pm 08/09/2022
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Who decides to mask or not?
By:Professor Dr. Moy Foong Ming

Mask mandate for indoor setting is lifted except in medical facilities and public transport, as announced yesterday.

Does this mean there is no risk of Covid-19 infection with this announcement? Of course not.

As of September 7, there were 2,428 newly reported cases with a positivity rate of 7.6%, which means the number is under-reported.

Luckily, 95% were with mild symptoms and on home quarantine, while hospital admission and ICU usage due to Covid-19 were 22.1% and 18.1% respectively.

The statistics show that although the Covid-19 situation is under control, it still poses risks to some, especially the high-risk and elderly groups.

If we are not required to wear masks by law, do we follow suit? Do we feel uncomfortable if people around us are not wearing masks but we are still masking?

We should not be obliged to follow the rest whether we mask or not. The government has returned the power to the people to decide for ourselves whether we want to wear a mask or not, be it indoor or outdoor.

We are not forced to wear masks anymore except in medical facilities and public transport.

Before vaccines were available, ecological studies found that Covid-19 transmission was 7.5 times higher in countries not having a mask mandate.

With the Omicron virus variant, vaccination may not be very effective in the prevention of infections, but is effective in preventing severe diseases, thus reducing the rates of hospitalization and death.

However, we should not have the perception that a mild Covid-19 infection is fine. There are the possibilities of having post- Covid symptoms or Long Covid.

Multiple infections compared to those with first infection, may exhibit increased risk and excess burden of all-cause mortality, hospitalization and adverse health outcomes in the acute and post-acute phase of the reinfection.

Therefore, with the removal of mask mandate, it is hope that Covid-19 cases do not surge nor increase the burden for our health care system.

This is where we as the individuals involved should be socially responsible.

If and when we are infected, even though with mild symptoms, we should report to MySejahtera and get isolated so that we won’t infect our family members or colleagues/friends.

We should put on our masks when we have flu-like symptoms even though we test negative.

To decide on masking or not, we should weigh our risks. Are we in the high-risk groups aged 60 years and above, with co-morbidities or low immunity who are more prone to severe disease? Are we vaccinated and boosted? Do we want to protect our loved ones from being infected? Are the places we are going crowded with people? Is it equipped with good ventilation?

There is no right or wrong answer. It is our choice. We should be responsible for whatever the consequences are.

Stay safe, stay healthy!

(Professor Dr. Moy Foong Ming, Department of Social & Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Malaya.)

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